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Egypt, Arabia and Morocco DIARY OF A DAHABIYYA by Jane Archer (Travel Writer) Jane Archer


There are some things in life you never forget. Your first love, your first holiday, the first time you set foot on a dahabiyya. No, I’m serious. For me, that moment was in Luxor, Egypt, some time after midnight on a gorgeous balmy night. I was feeling somewhat jaded after a late flight from the UK but as I stepped on board, there was the crew, waiting for me and my fellow


passengers with welcoming smiles and a delicious spread of drinks and nibbles laid out despite the late hour.


All thoughts of sleep were suddenly swept away as we all had our first glimpse of the stylish surroundings that were to be our home for the next week. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought I had got off a plane in Egypt but landed in heaven.


For the rest of the trip, a 7-night cruise from Luxor to Aswan, the crew treated me and the other passengers like royalty, welcoming us back from excursions with cold towels and remembering everyone’s favourite drinks (wine, beer and soft drinks) are included in the price, as are all gratuities, which helped make the cruise so much more relaxed as no one was worrying whose turn it was to buy a round or indeed how much to tip.


A dahabiyya, you might already have guessed, is a Nile cruise boat. The name was given to the wooden sail boats in which aristocrats used to cruise the Nile in style in the 19th Century. And I was about to follow in their footsteps, on a replica boat called Zahra. My dahabiyya was one of four sister vessels that Bales has exclusive use of on the Nile, and is quite unlike any of the other big cruise boats that ply up and down the Nile.


For one thing, it holds only 12 passengers in 6 cabins, all en suite and each individually decorated with beautiful replica antique furniture that made me feel that I was as noble as those aristos of old. Up on the top deck there were flowing drapes, wicker chairs and comfy cushions on the loungers that inspired some serious lazing about.


The dahabiyya is also different in that it has sails, which the crew hoisted each day as we glided effortlessly down the Nile, the envy of all those who saw us. And these boats have their own private moorings in Luxor and Aswan, located away from the big Nile boats; at night with only the twinkling stars for company.


Alexandria Cairo JORDAN Sharm el Sheikh Hurghada EGYPT Esna


Edfu Aswan


Abu Simbel


Did I say I thought I had landed in heaven? I was wrong. There was no doubt about it at all.


08456 345 112 – Balesworldwide.com 15 Luxor


Because the boat is so small, just two decks, with a sun deck at the back, the captain was able to cruise close to the river bank, making you feel you were part of the scenery, not looking down on it. Spotting rare birds in the reeds soon became a favourite game during breakfast and lunch as all 12 of us mixed and mingled and became new best friends.


There was a salon downstairs where meals are served in winter and guides lay on talks and slide shows about Egyptian history, but in summer all meals are taken on the top deck, under an awning that blocked out the sun’s rays.


By day, when we were not going ashore with our guide – an Egyptian guide accompanies all the cruises and organises trips to temples and tombs depending on what everyone wants to see because with just 12 people it’s easy to be flexible – we lazed on the sun deck, reading a good book, dozing in the sun or just sitting quietly and watching the world go by.


Red Sea


Nile


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